Millennials, Adventure, and Economy

November 17th, 2016 by Tyler Mattheis.  Feature Image Credit: Bruce Kirkby, 


Attracting Millennials, growing communities’ economies, and learning from true-life adventures were all topics at the Economic Developers Association (EDAC) annual conference this fall in Saskatoon, SK.  East Hants attended to discover new ideas to grow opportunities in East Hants, and bring additional expertise and service to our clients.  Excellent speakers gave their insights and updates to Economic Developers from across the country.  Here are six of the most interesting points made:


Six takeaways from EDAC 2016

The full conference agenda and select speakers’ presentations are available on the EDAC website.  Event highlights are on twitter with the #EDAC16 hashtag.


1. “The magic happens at the edges of your comfort zone”

Bruce Kirkby - EDAC 2016

Photo Credit: “Canol Trail” by Bruce Kirkby,

Bruce Kirkby (@Bruce_Kirkby), explorer, writer, and photographer, reminded entrepreneurs and economic developers that “growth and comfort do not coexist,” while at the same time cautioning that “growth and choke are on the same vector.”  These catchy opening lines introduced advice for people dedicated to the advancement of their communities:

Great achievements and incremental progress are both most likely at the edge of our comfort zone.  Such achievements need all your energy: be sure to get some sleep.

2. “All of Canada is a Free Trade Zone”

Detlef Engler, Senior Investment Counsellor with the Embassy in Canada in Berlin outlined the excellent competitive advantages that all of Canada enjoys when it comes to Foreign Direct Investment, and especially noted talent and education as critical factors for German investment.  Canada’s Foreign Trade Zone website encapsulates Detlef’s message well:

….”Canada’s duty and tax relief is geographically flexible. It can be enjoyed anywhere in the country.  [This] approach is superior to efforts by other countries that focus on location-specific foreign trade zones by allowing businesses to choose the location that best fits their needs. This makes Canada a destination of choice for foreign investment.”

3. Youth Attraction:  “The American Dream was the ME, the Millennial Dream is the WE”.  

Karina Leblac (@KarinaMLeBlanc) is Executive Director of the Pond-Deshpande Centre at the University of New Brunswick, and co-creator of the Millennial Dream, a feature length documentary that explores the values that may replace the cultural motif known as The American Dream.  Karina spoke of the need to shift from “youth retention”, strengthening the ties that bind the youth to their childhood communities, to “youth attraction”.

Shifting the mindset to youth attraction, even when engaging youth who have grown up within the community, puts the onus on the community to be a place where the Millennial generation wants to live, and a place where companies with “Millennial Cultures” want to be.  Communities successful in attracting “Millennials” are likely to be rewarded with a thriving, changing, and prosperous culture.

Karina quoted a Deloitte Survey that shows Millennials want businesses, and communities, to shift their purpose:

  • 56% of surveyed Millennials have ruled out ever working for an organization because of its values; and
  • More than 75% of surveyed Millennials are prepared to create their own opportunities in the future.


4. Vuja De:  “Think outside the boundaries of your category.”

Terry O’Reilly (@TerryOInfluence), host of radio show “O’Reilly on Advertising” spoke on the need for organizations, communities, and individuals to do things that, at first blush, make no sense.  Outrageous clauses in Van Halen concert contracts, painting chickens on African farms, and doubling the price of flea-market t-shirts:  these and other unorthodox ideas led to higher profits and business success stories.

“Creativity loves Constraints” – Terry O’Reilly

By encouraging us to “do things that at first blush make no sense”, Terry compelled us to think about how East Hants can use our constraints as a local government to discover counter-intuitive solutions.


5. “41% of Canadian SMEs outperformed the Economy” over the last three years. Cléroux (@PierreCleroux), Vice-President and Chief Economist for the BDC outlined three “Winning Strategies for SME’s” (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) in light of their already impressive performance and relatively bright outlook, especially in terms of export growth:

  1. Build your talent pool:  85% of businesses invest in workforce training
  2. Invest:  75% of growing Canadian businesses invest in facilities, equipment and advanced technologies
  3. Productivity:  The most successful businesses are more productive than their competitors.

Pierre also described a new easy-to-use online productivity tool available for free on the BDC Website.  By just entering six data points into the system, any entrepreneur in the country can receive measurements of their business’ productivity.


6. “Mr. Burns taught me everything I need to know about business”

Nicole Verkindt (@nicoleverkindt), founder of OMX and Host of CBC’s “Dragon’s Den – Next Gen., spoke on data, and the need to make sense of the data.  Myles Buck, my colleague from Ontario, already said it best in his own “Five Takeaways” post:

“Funny anecdotes aside, she shared some great advice on where government has a role to play  in the innovation sandbox. We are in a period of a “data gold rush” where data is democratizing all things and opening up the ability to collect and analyze many things.  Government has the opportunity to break from its stereotypical risk-averse role to being a player that can absorb risk by a first adopter for the overall betterment of its citizens.” – Myles Buck, Ec.D

East Hants Economic and Business Development works to promote and grow the communities and businesses in East Hants through its three public services: Business Attraction, Business Retention and Expansion, and Small and Medium Enterprise Development.  Explore how these services can work for you at, or contact one of our business development officers today.  



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